Power Players

India crowns its newest billionaire, a 37-year-old former teacher

Byju Raveendran, founder and CEO of Byju's learning app.
Mint | Hindustan Times | Getty Images

India has crowned its latest billionaire, a 37-year-old former teacher from a small village in Kerala.

Byju Raveendran received the coveted title this month after his seven-year-old education app Byju's raked in $150 million in its latest funding round.

The deal gives Raveendran's eponymous business a valuation of $5.7 billion, sending his own personal wealth over the billion-dollar threshold.

Raveendran holds a 21% stake in the education technology company, which is backed by investors including the Qatar Investment Authority, Tencent and Mark Zuckerberg.

The entrepreneur's feat sees him become one of India's youngest billionaires, joining the country's recent wave of newly-minted millennial unicorn founders such as Flipkart's Binny Bansal and Sachin Bansal.

A young success

It's some achievement, especially given Raveendran's humble beginnings.

The son of math and physics teachers, Raveendran grew up in the village of Azhikode in South India before going on to university. But, once working as an engineer, he discovered his own knack for teaching and helping friends with their entrance exams to engineering and management schools in his spare time.

Byju Raveendran, founder and chief executive officer of Byju's, speaks during an interview at the company's office in Bengaluru, India.
Bloomberg | Getty Images

Word quickly spread of Raveendran's top-rated teaching abilities, and he began filling out stadiums and receiving nationwide requests from students eager to learn his techniques.

So, in 2011, alongside fellow twenty-something co-founder Divya Gokulnath, he founded Byju's — The Learning App, an online education platform for children aged five to 16. Built around interactive videos, games and quizzes, the platform helps students with everyday classes as well as exam preparation.

Going global

In the seven years since, Raveendran's young start-up — which has 35 million users in India, 2.5 million of whom pay an annual fee of $145 to $290 — has become the world's most valuable ed-tech company, according to the company's website. The Bengaluru-based company became profitable in March.

The new billionaire now has his sights set on global expansion, targeting the U.S. and the U.K. following a recent partnership with Walt Disney Co.

Raveendran, who has said he wants to do for education what Disney did for entertainment, said the collaboration will help children learn with the help of their favorite characters by featuring them in their interactive content.

"Kids everywhere relate to Disney's Simba or Moana, who grip kids' attention before we take them through the loop of learning," CEO Raveendran told Bloomberg recently.

"We are customizing Disney Byju's to the American and British school curriculum," Raveendran said. "The characters have universal appeal."

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How this 46-year-old became a millionaire off a teacher's salary
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